What’s a Copyright Worth in Social Media?

What’s a Copyright Worth in Social Media?

bio_raytylerBy Tyler T. Ray | Have you noticed one of the following “shares” on social media:  Instagram pictures on Twitter,  Pinterest pins on Facebook, Twitter retweets on Tumblr?  This is par-for-the course nowadays.  But the sharing across different social media platforms is creating serious legal debate – and case law – in regard to rights and attribution of copyrights related to social media content.  Let’s use Twitter as an example.

In January, a Court determined two news organizations improperly shared photos a photojournalist posted on Twitter, as the photos were used without permission.  The news organizations admitted that they did not have permission to publish the copyrighted photos but argued that Twitter Terms of Service (TOS) grant all members a license to use others’ content posted on Twitter.   The court rejected this notion, noting that posting on its site grants Twitter a license to use your content, such as retweeting content within the confines of the Twitter platform, but this doesn’t mean content is fair game in other platforms.

Soon after this decision, Twitter released an updated TOS related to embedding tweets to include photos, video, hashtags (and other copyrighted content on a Twitter card) into third-party sites using Twitter’s embedding tool.  Now, content that is embedded on a third-party site is within the updated TOS because it is still on the Twitter platform.

That said, if the case described above was decided today, there may be a different result! The implications of Twitter’s TOS reflect the difficult copyright issues associated with sharing across social media platforms.  A picture can travel several platforms and lose all connection with its owner.  It makes for a messy precedent regarding rights and attribution of copyright.

For now, use caution when posting content that is not procured by or provided to you with permission. Remember to abide by any licensing terms and attribution or notice requirements, and ensure that your right-to-use extends to electronic formats. Now, back to sharing!

To contact the author of this post, email Tyler at tray@duffysweeney.com. We welcome your comments, questions and suggestions.

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